This year has been a momentous one for Aston Martin. While the new Vantage and DBS Superleggera display the modernity of the marque, further cementing it as one of the world’s finest luxury performance automotive brands, it has also looked back to its beginnings and the car that first propelled Aston Martin to the upper echelons of motoring notoriety — the DB4 GT. When the DB4 GT Continuation — a 25-car limited run that pays homage to the high-performance original — was unveiled in January, it ignited a newfound fascination with the iconic sports car.
Of the original 75 DB4 GTs, there is possibly none more fascinating than the 1961 DB4 GT/0157/R, more commonly known by its registration plate, 41 DPX. Used in Peter Sellers’ hit 1963 crime-comedy, The Wrong Arm of the Law, it was first seen on the big screen racing across Uxbridge Moor pursued by a Wolseley 6/90 police car. But what makes this particular model so very special is its life after filming. Sellers, a notorious petrolhead, amassed a collection of over 80 cars before he was 40 years old. He was so impressed with the DB4 GT that he bought the car when filming ceased — and there’s a reason the DB4 GT gripped him with such force.
When the car was originally unveiled in the late 1950s, Marcel Blondeau, Aston Martin’s leading French dealer, told John Wyer, the then-team manager of Aston Martin Racing, that the company must produce a GT version to compete with Ferrari and Jaguar. While Wyer had already commissioned a prototype GT version, code-named the DP199, it was Blondeau who eventually convinced Aston Martin owner David Brown that a production DB4 GT would not take the marque’s time away from its Formula 1 and four-door Lagonda projects. The premise? To make a “cheap and cheerful” lightweight, high-performance iteration of the DB4.
This came from the use of 18swg magnesium-alloy body panels, a shortened wheelbase, Perspex rear and side windows, aluminium door frames and a tuned version of famed engine designer Tadek Marek’s iconic 3.7-litre straight-six engine. By replacing the twin carburettors with triple Webers, installing high-lift twin camshafts for increased compression ratio and larger inlet and exhaust valves, the original 240bhp engine increased to an impressive 302bhp. This allowed for a top speed of over 152mph, a 0-60mph time of 6.1 seconds and a claimed 0-100mph and back again in under 30 seconds, making the DB4 GT the fastest production road car of its time. No wonder Sellers was smitten.
The engine of 41 DPX was all but destroyed during the filming of The Wrong Arm of the Law, but engine logs show that a 4.0-litre engine block from the Lagonda Rapide was fitted to the DB4 GT in February 1963. The remainder of the engine, however, remains original to this day. And while the replacement block may seem detrimental to the originality of 41 DPX, it was fitted in period, making this model the most powerful DB4 GT ever built.
Initially offered with just two seats and a rear “shelf”, the specification sheet shows that 41 DPX was ordered with two “occasional rear seats”, making it one of only three DB4 GTs created with such specifications. Originally painted in Dubonnet Red, it was re-painted in green for its film appearance and remains green even now.
Sellers owned 41 DPX for about a year before selling it on and the car moved to the hands of Mr J Melville Smith, who achieved first in class at the 1967 Aston Martin Owners Club Curborough Sprint with it. By 1981, it had been exported to New Zealand with a documented 53,000 miles on the clock and would not return to Great Britain until 1990.
Following its return, 41 DPX underwent a four-year restoration, which included chassis and bodywork by Bodylines, rebuilding, refitting and repainting by Spray-Tec, and a full engine and gearbox rebuild by famed Aston Martin specialists Rex J Woodgate. The restoration itself cost in excess of £125,000 and ensures that 41 DPX remains in “as-new” condition.
And this is the time for the DB4 GT. With the Continuation causing a stir across the world and the record-breaking £10.1m paid for “2 VEV”, Jim Clark’s 1961 DB4 GT Zagato, at Goodwood earlier this year, 41 DPX will form the headlining lot at the 12th Annual RM Sotheby’s September Auction, where it is expected to sell for circa £3m. A rare example of one of the finest British sports cars of the 20th century, Peter Sellers’ 1961 DB4 GT will forever remain a significant piece of Aston Martin history.